The BBC is coming under pressure from politicians and other media outlets over its use of the term ‘Islamic State’.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister criticised the corporation for using the term – rather than ISIS or ISIL, both of which are acronyms which include the offending term – and the director general was sent a letter signed by more than 120 MPs asking it to use the term “Daesh”.
- July 22, 2021
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Director general Tony Hall responded with a letter saying that using Daesh "would not preserve the BBC's impartiality”.
"Unfortunately this term may give the impression of support for those who coined it and that would not preserve the BBC's impartiality," he said.
"We have recognised that used on its own the name Islamic State could suggest that such a state exists and such an interpretation is misleading.”
Few other UK media outlets have adopted Daesh, and many have used – and continue to use – the term Islamic State.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail gave the BBC "full marks" in an editorial for “resisting political pressure to drop the term ‘Islamic State’, the name by which members of this vile death cult refer to themselves”. It added: “Will MPs stop fussing irrelevantly about what to call them – and turn their minds to defeating them?”
However, this praise was retracted today following Hall’s statement and the Mail accused the corporation of having “warped values”. The Mail said: “Yesterday the Mail praised the BBC for resisting political pressure to drop the term Islamic State from its bulletins.
“Instead of fussing about what to call IS, we strongly believe ministers should focus their attention on how to defeat this vile death cult.
“Now we learn that rather than taking a brave stand against outside interference, the BBC's main motivation was that it should remain 'impartial' and not be 'pejorative' about IS. What can they be thinking?
“To argue that anyone can be 'impartial' about a group that beheads captives routinely and after one of its followers has just murdered 30 British holidaymakers in Tunisia is quite simply abhorrent.
“And it says a great deal about the warped values of so many people at the BBC.”
The Daily Mail has retained its stance of referring to the group as Islamic State.
The Mail’s criticism came after a number of politicians laid into the BBC in Parliament yesterday.
Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling said the broadcaster was a "beacon of fact" during the Second World War and should adopt the same approach when covering threats to the security of Britain.
"I have to say that I have a different view of what impartiality means to the BBC," he told the House. "During the Second World War, the BBC was a beacon of fact, it was not expected to be impartial between Britain and Germany.
"Today it should be a beacon of fact, but it is not expected to be impartial about threats to the security and safety of the lives and limbs of the people of this nation.”
Rehman Chishti MP, who led the group of MPs asking the BBC to use the term Daesh, said of Hall’s letter: "The response that I received is not worth the paper it's written on."
Yesterday, Tory James Gray raised the issue at the start of the debate on Britain and international security, asking Defence Secretary Michael Fallon: "Are you aware of reports the BBC has in fact said they must be fair with Islamic State on the grounds that the coverage of the terrorist group must be impartial?
"Will you agree with me the BBC need not be impartial with murderous scumbags of the kind that ISIL are and calling them Daesh is perfectly correct?"
Fallon replied: "The BBC needs to be impartial about the facts, but you can't be impartial between terrorism and the rules by which the rest of us live."
Alex Salmond cautioned MPs against a "bash the BBC session" over the broadcaster's use of the term Islamic State.
Intervening on Tory Julian Lewis, the former SNP leader said: "Far be it for me to defend the BBC since they've done so little in Scotland recently to merit defence, but would you not allow that perhaps we should unite across this chamber in the expression of the term Daesh and the wisdom of using it.
"And once we do that then reflect one of the broadcasting organisations would follow as opposed to just turning this into a bash the BBC session."
Lewis said Salmond had anticipated his next point, adding: "If we use the term Daesh eventually, with luck, the BBC will be the only organisation left not doing so and at that point even they might see sense."
Tory Nigel Evans joined the calls for the BBC to stop being impartial when it comes to terrorists, saying it "should remember" the £3.7 billion of taxpayer funding it receives.
He said: "What's the BBC playing at, for goodness sake?
"It is not neutral when it comes to terrorism.
"I'm amazed they are still known as the British Broadcasting Corporation, I suspect I'll wake up one and they'll just be the broadcasting corporation because they want to show neutrality around the world that they really aren't British.
"Well they should remember that they are on the receiving end of £3.7 billion-worth of British taxpayers' money and I don't expect them to be neutral when we're talking about terrorism."